Languages of Security in the Asia-Pacific

College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University

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Japanese – Rekishi Kyookasho Mondai

May 27th, 2011 · No Comments · Historical Revisionism, Japanese

歴史教科書問題 (れきしきょうかしょもんだい)

rekishi kyookasho mondai

“The problem of history textbooks


Relates to historical revisionism

The issues of rekishi kyoukasho mondai convey a threat to the nation. This is one of a group of 問題 mondai (‘issues’, ‘problems’) (as well as, 慰安婦問題 ianfu mondai ‘comfort women issue’, and 靖国神社参拝問題 Yasukuni jinja sanpai mondai ‘the problem of worshipping at the Yasukuni shrine’) which Japan’s neighbours feel show that Japan has yet to acknowledge the sins of its war-time past.

Mondai has a significant meaning and covers a profound sense of ‘problem’. Jiken is used to refer to an ‘incident’. These words both problematise historical events and issues, but they can be used to compartmentalise anguish. It is often understood that there are no good jiken. This suggest that the event concerned is not yet fully analysed, understood or interpreted in such a way that there is a lack of consensus, rather, it is a good way of distancing the issue. However, the use of these words is not a way to justify Japanese feelings that they are not taking responsibility for their ‘war crimes’, rather, there is a feeling in Japan that they are taking responsibility.

In this case, the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology has approved a number of history textbooks for use in Japanese schools which present a revisionist view of events associated with Japan’s invasion and occupation of Asia—a view which China, Korea, and Taiwan have taken issue with. Groups in Japan also criticise the textbooks on the grounds of being loath to admit responsibility for Japan’s war-time actions, and the uptake of these textbooks in schools has been low.

Many people have weighed into the debate of what should be taught in the history textbooks. One finds titles such as :

『岩波ブックレット 歴史教科書と国際理解』

‘The Iwanami booklet of history textbooks and international understanding’

‘This we will not give up in history textbooks: ten issues’

And, on Prime Minister Abe’s website, an entry from 1998 when he was a young member of the Diet: あるべき歴史教科書の姿について: ‘On what history textbooks should look like’[1]

One example of such a textbook is the 新しい歴史教科書 ‘The new history textbook’, published in 2001 by Fusoosha. In its discussion of the Sino-Japan War in 1937 ( p. 270) it mentions that the Japanese army occupied Nanking in December of that year. It then adds, parenthetically, that there were many casualties inflicted by the Japanese army amongst the population as well, and refers the reader to p. 295, to 南京事件 Nankin jiken ‘the Nanking incident’. On this page it mentions, in the context of the 東京裁判 Tookyoo saiban ‘Tokyo trials’, that the trials recognised the murders of numerous Chinese in the ‘Nanking incident’. The textbook goes on to add:


‘However, on the basis of the records, questions have been raised about the actual circumstances of this incident. There is a variety of opinions, and the controversy continues even today.’





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